Showing 591 - 600 of 642 annotations tagged with the keyword "Disease and Health"

Cold Mountain

Frazier, Charles

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel chronicles the long journey home of a Civil War soldier, Inman, to Cold Mountain in North Carolina. The story begins in a military hospital, and Inman's neck wound, a long difficult-to-heal horizontal slice received in battle, is drawing flies. Inman is a moral man, and the brutality and killing he has witnessed on the battlefield lead him to leave the hospital AWOL and journey secretively, by foot, back to Ada, his love.

The trip is perilous; Inman is subject not only to the difficulties of near starvation and a poorly healing wound, but also the cruelties of people he meets along the way. However, every so often, he is also succored by compassionate people, such as the goat woman who provides the cure for his neck wound, if not for the wounds inside. Intertwined with Inman's story is Ada's: her preacher father dies of tuberculosis, leaving her utterly unable to provide for her own basic needs on the farm. Fortunately, a self-reliant young woman, Ruby, joins Ada on the farm, and helps transform both the farm and Ada.

The book details the ways of nourishment: physical (precise descriptions of food, its paucity and preparation) and nonphysical (themes of love, generosity, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual questing underpin the book). Cold Mountain itself provides both types of nourishment by offering hope, goals, shelter, food and a place where love and forgiveness are possible despite the savagery of man.

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The Road to Wellville

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: Mar-08-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the fall of 1907, Will and Eleanor Lightbody, a wealthy, neurotic couple from Peterskill, New York travel to Battle Creek, Michigan to immerse themselves in the routine of the famous sanitarium run by corn-flake inventor, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. They meet Charlie Ossining who is seeking his fortune in the fickle market of Battle Creek's breakfast food industry. The Lightbodys have just lost their infant daughter and Eleanor is taking Will to the "san" for the cure. An inveterate meat-eater with a sexual appetite, Will was addicted, first to alcohol, and then, to opium, after his wife spiked his coffee with an off-the-shelf-remedy for drink.

At the sanitarium, they must occupy separate rooms, refrain from sex, and piously eat inflexible non-meat diets. Therapies include five daily enemas, exercises, "radiated" water, and an electrical "sinusoidal bath," which accidentally fries one of the residents. Kellogg is gravely disappointed in Will's inability to toe the "physiologic" line, but he is more deeply disturbed by his adopted son, George, whose chosen life on the street is a perpetual embarrassment.

Worried about his sexual prowess and deprived of his wife, Will becomes obsessed with his beautiful nurse and opts for the stimulation of an electrical belt; equally frustrated and bent on self-starvation, his wife turns to the quack "Dr Spitzvogel" who specializes in nudism and "manipulation of the womb." Brought to their senses by humiliation, Will and Eleanor go home.

Meanwhile, Charlie has joined with George Kellogg and borrowed from Will to keep his business afloat, but he realizes that he has been swindled. He only narrowly escapes jail, during a fiery commotion created by George who is then murdered by his adoptive father.

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The Elephant Man

Pomerance, Bernard

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play is based on the life of John Merrick, a horribly deformed man who lived in London in the late 19th century. After being abandoned by the traveling freak show in which he had been exhibited, he was admitted to Whitechapel Hospital under the care of Dr. Frederick Treves. Merrick is given a permanent home in the hospital.

Treves educates him and introduces him to London society, including the famous actress, Mrs. Kendal. Merrick becomes quite the favorite of the "in" group. However, as he learns more about society and human nature, he realizes that he will never be accepted simply as an ordinary person. Eventually, he dies in his sleep, presumably because he tries to sleep lying down (like ordinary people do) and the size and position of his enormous head compresses his windpipe and he suffocates.

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The Idiot

Dostoevski, Fyodor Mikhailovich

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Prince Myshkin is an epileptic returning from a sanitarium. On the train, he meets Rogozhin and they become friends. Myshkin visits his distant relatives, the Epanchins, a fashionable family. General Epanchin gives him a job and he fascinates Madame Epanchin and her daughter, Aglaya, with his innocence and awkwardness.

The Prince boards with Ganya, a schemer who wants to marry Aglaya for her money. Ganya is also involved with Natasya; though innocent, she is a kept woman. Myshkin pities Natasya; in their innocence they are two of a kind. He offers to marry her, but as she is worried about ruining his name, she runs off with Rogozhin. Shortly afterward, she runs away from Rogozhin and disappears. Rogozhin assumes she has run to Myshkin and with Ganya plots the Prince's death.

Meanwhile, Aglaya has fallen in love with Myshkin, but his bizarre talk disturbs the family and when he falls into a fit at a party they ban him from the house. Aglaya also grows increasingly jealous of Natasya. The two women meet and Aglaya resolves to give up the Prince. At last, Natasya agrees to marry Myshkin but on their wedding day, she elopes with Rogozhin, who murders her. Myshkin returns to the sanitarium.

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The Cobra Event

Preston, Richard

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The threat of biotechnological warfare and/or terrorism is the focus of this carefully researched and riveting novel by the author of The Hot Zone. The term "science fiction" doesn't quite do justice to this tale which lies just to the other side of Preston's usual domain of literary nonfiction. Though the particulars of this story of a genetic engineer who designs lethal virus bombs to thin the population and the counterterrorist group of scientists who attempt to stop him are fictional, the possibilities of such threats are real.

The counterterrorists are a motley and sometimes contentious group of recruits from the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. military. Their agendas and methods differ, but the immediate death threat to the unsuspecting inhabitants of New York and Washington D.C. unifies them into an effective if not always efficient team. They discover the virus when five cases appear of what seems to be an acute and horrifying permutation of a rare neurological dysfunction that induces violent seizures and compulsive self-destruction by chewing on one's own flesh. The virus turns out to be a graft that could only have been produced by artificial means.

The search for the "mad scientist" with equipment capable of this sophisticated work takes weeks during which a handful of people have to live with the secret that a potential pandemic could literally explode in a local subway. The resolution, while in some ways satisfying, hardly dispels the uneasy implications which invite readers not only to serious reflection on our collective attitudes toward weapons research and development, but to activism.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Canadian artist, Robert Pope (d.1992), devoted the last years of his short life to documenting his decade-long experience as a patient with Hodgkin's Disease. Shortly after his diagnosis he was influenced by the 1945 autobiographical novel of Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Pope's early work explored the interconnectedness and pain of individuals bound by an imperfect love, in Smart's case for a married man. After his disease went into remission, he began to paint the patient's perspective on illness, hospitals, visitors, family, and health-care providers in a series of images that suggest the lighting of de la Tour, the photographic immediacy of Doisneau, and the menacing surrealism of de Chirico. His book, Illness and Healing: Images of Cancer (1991), became a bestseller.

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Heartpains

Izes, Joseph

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

An intern in internal medicine is frustrated by his weekly clinics; he seems unable to understand why most of his patients come to see him, why they seem happy when they leave, and wonders when he is going to have the chance to do "real" medicine, such as ordering tests and making sophisticated diagnoses. One day, he sees an elderly woman who had been worked up over the years for "heart pain" without finding a diagnosis. In the past she had seen other residents for no discernible reasons.

At this visit, the author recognizes that she seems upset, encourages her to talk, realizes that she reminds him of his grandmother. The woman reluctantly admits she has fallen in love with a younger man. The resident is respectful towards her, and recognizes the beautiful woman she had once been. He begins to realize that she has experienced much that he hasn't, and that she has much to teach him about life and about being human.

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sick man looks at flowers

Brooks, Gwendolyn

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short poem, one of a series entitled "A Catch of Shy Fish," describes an old sick man whose life is "closing in" and who feels only pain ("mind is a little isle") until there enters "an impudence of red," flowers that, for him become a "ripe rebuke," a "burgeoning affluence" that "mocks [him] and "mocks the desert of my bed."

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Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The author is a fourth year medical student dealing simultaneously with the rigors of medical training and the difficulties of living with diabetes. She has discovered that when she tries to interact with patients she over-identifies with them. When she reads about diabetes in medical textbooks, which present a rigid equation for balancing diet, exercise, and insulin need, she tries to adopt this approach to her personal diabetes management, convincing herself that emotions, fatigue, stress and other factors have no effect on her diabetes control. When this biomedical approach fails, she feels deep shame and frustration.

Only over time does she develop the confidence to realize that it is not shameful to admit one's personal needs even in medical training, that disease is a part of all humans and is not an enemy, that she need not be defined solely by her disease (or her profession), and that blurred boundaries between doctors and patients are not as dangerous as she was first led to believe.

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Communion

Weinberg, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The physician author is puzzled about what he can do to help a young woman who comes to him for treatment of her chronic abdominal pain. She has had every test, seen every specialist, and has no clear diagnosis. Only on the third visit, which she has initiated, does he discover that she was sexually assaulted at age 14. He is the only person she has told.

He immediately feels out of his element, and asks her to see a psychiatrist. She refuses, and insists he handle her care. He sets up open-ended visits to allow her time to talk, and looks for help in the medical literature and from a psychiatrist colleague.

Over time, as they explore her feelings and experiences, his patient gains self esteem and transforms herself into a confident, beautiful woman, planning on travel, school, and career. After her last visit with him, he realizes, "I had been chosen to receive a gift of trust, and of all the gifts I had ever received, none seemed as precious."

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